Chennai water crisis: City's reservoirs run dry

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A woman sits amid empty water potsImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Empty water pots in Chennai, which has run out of water

The southern Indian city of Chennai (formerly Madras) is in crisis after its four main water reservoirs ran completely dry.

The acute water shortage has forced the city to scramble for urgent solutions, including drilling new boreholes.

Residents have had to stand in line for hours to get water from government tanks, and restaurants have closed due to the lack of water.

"Only rain can save Chennai from this situation," an official told BBC Tamil.

The city, which, according to the 2011 census, is India's sixth largest, has been in the grip of a severe water shortage for weeks now.

As the reservoirs started to run dry, many hotels and restaurants shut down temporarily. The Chennai metro has turned off air conditioning in the stations, while offices have asked staff to work from home in a bid to conserve water.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
People queue to get water from government trucks

Vinoth Kaligai, the general secretary of an IT workers' association, confirmed that some firms had told employees to stay at home. "But homes are also running out of water, so what are we supposed to do?" he added.

The situation has also prompted clashes to break out between residents. Last week, police arrested a man for stabbing his neighbour during a fight over water-sharing in the neighbourhood.

Officials are trying to find alternative sources of water, with the city's water department starting to identify and extract water from quarries.

But the big concern is the dry reservoirs and low groundwater levels.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The search is now on for new sources of water

"The only way to make this better is to improve the groundwater level," Nakkeeran, a social activist, said. "We've had dry years before but the groundwater was our saviour."

The water crisis has also meant that most of the city has to depend solely on Chennai's water department, which has been distributing water through government trucks across neighbourhoods.

"The destruction has just begun," an official said. "If the rain fails us this year too, we are totally destroyed."